Land Manager's Diary: Read it here>

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We have been back with the volunteers at Friends of the Lake District’s land at Mazonwath, next to Little Asby Common this week. One or two more sessions and we will have almost  finished the internal wall rebuild, just a small section to reset further along.

Pictured: View of the rebuilt boundary wall at Mazonwath 

We reckon we first began this mammoth task in late 2011/early 2012, that is a whopping 11 years ago! Our volunteer figures record that the volunteer hours have amounted to 1260 days of time, and that is with some missing data for three years so it must be more than that. That is equivalent to walling every single day of the year for 3.5 years!!! Taking that a bit further, we reckon we have rebuilt about 350m of wall, and at a payment rate of £50 a metre min, that would be over £17,500 of walling! I wonder what the cake bill would have amounted to!!!! That is a really big achievement and one which we are incredibly proud of, keeping the rural skills of dry stone walling going and creating a beautiful wall that is not only stockproof but a great habitat for plants, lichens and animals. 

Pictured: Levelling off the wall

Whilst the walling was going on, Rachel and Richard put their hay meadow plant ID learning from last week into practice by surveying the new meadow. We have concluded that the world of grasses is a world too far to enter right now, but the plant ID skills are improving and we have some data now to send to the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre, so a good bit of citizen science recording to help others in future. We also did a quick walkover of the rest of the land and it was interesting to see that there was more diversity of plants than expected.

Pictured: Richard and Rachel surveying our new meadow

The corridor along Potts Beck was full of vibrancy and the pictures give a whole new look to Mazonwath, one which we don’t normally see. We had an abundance of common knapweed, marsh valerian, meadowsweet, water avens, ragged robin, rough hawkbit, and tormentil, giving a lovely patchwork of colour and smell. 

Pictured: Potts beck

On Wednesday night we had the annual meeting of our Little Asby Commoners Association. All the commoners and ourselves get together in the Chairman’s farmhouse kitchen for a crack and a catch up on what is going on with the common…. As with the majority of farmers, we are in worrying times with feed prices and other costs rocketing, but the gradual decline of the Basic Payment System, accounting on average for 40% of income, reducing to zero by 2027.

Again, like most commons in an agri environment agreement, we are now in ‘roll over’ for up to five years, meaning we keep the same scheme just as it was for ten years. We can decide to come out of it and head for one of the new schemes Defra are offering but would we be better or worse off, what are the implications for stocking, etc.?

The view of the commoners was we stay where we are for now, and keep watch on continual developments re new schemes. The new Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme for moorland was not favoured either, a lot of work surveying every 10ha of the common for not a lot of money. Things may well change as the economics of the situation change in the next few years. Long term planning at this point in time is very difficult. 

Final call for butterfly and moth training next Tuesday, book here>